Saint of the Gracious Smile, your lips are cruel

Saint of the Gracious Smile, your lips are cruel
Kathrin Köhler

For matti.
Thank you for your deep, fierce, and gentle beauty and intelligence. Always.

You wear your smile like a veil.
A shroud of modesty and grace is still a shroud.
Cloth can fray and rip
and stain just as easily.

O Saint of the Gracious, you would have us turn the other cheek,
you who have grace in perpetuity.

I do not know which of mine is the other cheek—
the one bruised and bloodied by ignorant hands
or the one bruised and bloodied by familiar hands,
though these are often the same cheek,
the same hand.

O Saint, you face God Himself
with your head held high, your shoulders squared.
You face the world itself
with your smile, lips barely up-turned at the corners.
I cannot tell what it is you look at
if anything.

O Saint, you have never turned
the other cheek, having never turned the first.

Saint of the Gracious Smile
your lips remind me that a smile is no different than a grimace,
that a mouth is a ruin between sunken cheeks,
that a cheek is yet another battleground.

Your smile reminds me that no one can win.

You keep your teeth well hidden.
No doubt they are as sharp as wolves’.

You give away nothing.

Kathrin Köhler is a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop whose poetry has appeared in Interfictions, Strange Horizons, Stone Telling, and Goblin Fruit. Kathrin writes to explore ideas like what it means to belong, how we internalize social power structures, and how we conceive of and interact with nature. They are inordinately interested in things “between”.